Qatar requested World Cup apps that researchers consider spyware
The World Cup 2022 Coming in a month. If you’re planning to head to Qatar, you already know that it won’t be like going to any other World Cup. There were bans regarding extramarital sex and homosexuality, as well as “sober areas” for drunk fans, and a lack of hotel rooms. Even the new Fox Analyst Chad Johnson He said he wasrebuke“To show affection to the public in Qatar. Another restriction comes from the way the country requires visitors to install two apps on their mobile phones, apps that many consider spyware.
The two apps seem fairly harmless on the surface. Where there is a problem is that it requires permissions that many feel are beyond what a similar app would need from the user for the app to do its job.
NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation), chief security officer Øyvind Vasaasen, took a deep dive into the two applications and discovered that what Qatar wanted to reach was beyond the norm for similarly designed applications. Vasasin even recommended that people not bring their phones to Qatar, saying, “It is not my job to give travel advice, but I personally will not bring my mobile phone on a visit to Qatar.”
The first, Ehteraz, is a COVID-19 tracking app that is similar to other COVID tracking apps. It’s a download required by any World Cup visitor over the age of 18. It is used for contact tracing and helps warn people if they have been exposed to someone else who is sick. Because of that, the app requires permission to track someone’s location.
What makes it different from other COVID tracking apps is that it also detected that the app wanted the ability to “read, delete or change all the content on the phone, as well as access connectivity to WiFi and Bluetooth, bypass other apps and prevent the phone from shutting down to sleep.” This is along with “the ability to make calls directly through your phone and the ability to disable the screen lock.”
The second, Hayya, is a public events app that helps people keep track of World Cup tickets and gives them access to the free Qatar metro system. Similar to Ehteraz, Hayya can prevent a phone from switching to sleep mode as well as capture someone’s exact location and view network connections. This is in addition to the request for “virtually unrestricted access to share your personal information”.
Vasaasen said, “When you download these two apps, you accept the terms in the contract, and those terms are very generous. You basically hand over all the information in your phone. You give the people who control the apps the ability to read, change, and modify things. You also have them. The opportunity to retrieve information from other applications if they have the ability to do so, and we believe they do.”
NRK is awaiting results from two independent IT companies that are reviewing both applications. They sent their results to FIFAwhich issued a “No Comment”.
It would be one thing if you could pick and choose which permissions the app has on you. But as Naomi Lintvedt of the University of Oslo notes, it’s “all or nothing” in order to use apps, and you need those apps to work if you’re going to the World Cup.
“You can’t agree to parts of a use, just the whole thing,” Lintvedt said. “If I understand the apps correctly, there will also be limited options for changing permissions there. This means that if you want to go to the bathroom, you have no other choice. This is a mandatory app, with no options.”
Lintvedt agreed with Vasasin and recommended that journalists, and even fans, not bring their personal cell phones or work to Qatar. Considering that you can’t get away without owning a cell phone these days, it comes down to owning some type of cell phone for the month, which can be rather expensive.
Although the initial design of the two apps was done in good faith, Qatar does not trust many people that they will stop what they say publicly. You just have to look at Various human rights violations The nation is trying to hide and how they got the World Cup in the first place to find out the cause of the mistrust.
It seems that as we get closer to the World Cup, we feel that most people just want to finish this tournament as quickly and as quickly as possible. But for those who are already going, there will definitely be some concerns about these apps.
[NRK; illustration of the Lusail Stadium from the Qatar 2022 organization committee, via Getty Images]
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